The tedious debate over healthcare reform blunders on. Radio talk shows like NPR’s “On Point” continue to present a narrow view of opinions on the subject, while trying to stir up excitement over so-called right-wing propaganda, and fabricated Democrat vs. Republican discord. I have several times attempted to call-in a comment to clarify the “doublespeak” going on with regard to the $500 billion cut in Medicare Advantage programs that the President and Congress agree is planned. Each time I call “On Point,” I have been told by the program telephone censor, “Those are very good points, but we just aren’t going to get to it this hour.”
In a recent re-run of the same-old-same-old (10/05/09), “On Point” host Tom Ashbrook’s guests were Howard Dean, DNC chairman and former Vermont Governor, and Bill Frist, former GOP Senate Majority Leader and medical entrepreneur. As in past programs, we hear from two doctors who agree that the $500 billion cut in the Medicare Advantage program is necessary and will not have any impact on the services seniors receive!
The Truth: $500 billion in cuts to Medicare Advantage providers will result in increased premiums, as well as cuts in services and increased costs to Medicare Advantage patients. Seniors I know are happy with their Medicare Advantage programs that cover all the basic medical services not covered by Medicare. With the planned cuts in Medicare Advantage, many low-income seniors will be forced to revert to the Original Medicare (Parts A & B) that doesn’t even cover basic medical needs like annual physical exams, eye exams, eye glasses, hearing exams, hearing aids, or drugs. Yes, we will also need to pay for a separate, private drug insurance plan. In addition to Medicare (A&B) low-income patients in Massachusetts (creator of the model for national mandated health insurance) continue to rely on dwindling state government subsidies to meet their basic medical needs.
Seniors need to speak out. Doctors who promote “Medicare For All,” as well as those who support cuts to Medicare Advantage, don’t know personally what it means to have Medicare or Medicare Advantage as the only affordable choices for covering our medical needs. And they certainly never talk publicly about the real differences between what the two programs cover and what they pay out to medical professionals. Seniors do know the difference. We need to make our voices heard! They think we have been wooed into complacency by their bedside manner.
Don’t let them put our Medicare Advantage coverage on the chopping block without fighting back. Single-payer is not on the table…not even in the kitchen refrigerator. Cuts to Medicare Advantage have been prepared and are being served up with unanimous enthusiasm by our so-called elected representatives, with lots of support ($$$$$$$$$) from their friends in the private sector who know that sacrificing the cost-limited Medicare Advantage program is small ransom to pay in return for the billions of dollars to be gained by forcing every American to enroll in private insurance plans. That is what is on the table!
We also need to beware of White House spectacles designed to intimidate us and distract us from serious questioning and debate. Witness today’s shameful display: Obama filled the Rose Garden with 150 doctors in their white medical coats, all of whom we are told support the President’s health care overhaul. In a clear indication of the President’s opinion of our inability to think for ourselves, he stated to the fawning physicians “nobody has more credibility with the American people on this issue than you do.” (AP10/05/09) BAAAAA! BAAAAA!
MARY LYNN CRAMER, MA, MSW, LICSW, Senior Citizen, has a background in economics and clinical social work, and considerable personal experience with Medicare. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org